HC Deb 12 February 1973 vol 850 cc960-2
8. Mr. Kaufman

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will introduce legislation compelling manufacturers to label all goods with the date of manufacture.

Sir G. Howe

I do not consider that general legislation is needed. But my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food hopes shortly to announce the Government's decision on the recommendations of the Food Standards Committee about the date marking of certain foodstuffs.

Mr. Kaufman

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that I have in my possession evidence of a case in Manchester in which Fisher-Bendix marketed as new a washing machine that was five years old, thus causing intolerable inconvenience and expense to the customer? Fisher-Bendix has been disgracefully unhelpful about the matter. Should not the public be protected from such fraudulent and swindling activities with manufactured goods as well as foodstuffs?

Sir G. Howe

I am not prepared to comment on the case which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. There has not yet been forthcoming any evidence to suggest that date marking of manufactured goods is something for which there is a general need. If it was shown that particular cases required such treatment across the board, I would be prepared to look at them.

Mr. McCrindle

It not this taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut? Will my right hon. and learned Friend tell me what conceivable advantage would ensue to me if I were to know the date of manufacture of a kettle or a sweater?

Sir G. Howe

That is precisely the point that I had in mind. There has not yet been shown to be any general need for date marking of manufactured goods.

Mr. Alan Williams

How does the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain that the Sunday papers were able to announce yesterday the Government's intentions about date marking before the House has been told about those intentions? As foodstuffs are not currently date marked, how will the Government ensure that the prices of old stocks of canned meat are not inflated by as much as 30 per cent. in the next few weeks when the EEC levies come into force?

Sir G. Howe

No doubt these points are matters which my right hon. Friend will have in mind when he announces the Government's decision.